Meet Congress' New Third Party and Its Leader, the Junior Senator from Texas

Sarah Palin's wish for a third party of "good guys" has somewhat suddenly popped into existence, giving the United States its first coalition government. To Palin's chagrin, she's not the leader of it. That honor goes to Ted Cruz.

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Sarah Palin's wish for a third party of "good guys," expressed to Fox News on Tuesday, has somewhat suddenly popped into existence, giving the United States its first coalition government. But to Palin's undoubted chagrin, she's not the leader of it. That honor goes to Ted Cruz.

The idea that Congress is now operating as a three-party system has gained informal traction recently. At the New Yorker on Thursday, Ryan Lizza outlined the House "suicide caucus" — those members who preferred to let the government shut down instead of approving any funding for Obamacare. Lizza used as his guide to define the caucus a letter sent from 80 representatives to Speaker John Boehner in August, including such stalwarts as Reps. Louis Gohmert of Texas and Steve King of Iowa.

But a report from The National Review's Robert Costa following the Senate's rejection of that idea on Friday indicates that the vaguely-defined caucus already has a leader. Costa begins:

On a Thursday conference call, a group of House conservatives consulted with Senator Ted Cruz of Texas about how to respond to the leadership's fiscal strategy. Sources who were on the call say Cruz strongly advised them to oppose it, and hours later, Speaker John Boehner’s plan fizzled.

That's a stunning development, one that Costa suggests has driven House Republican leaders to "fury." On Thursday, we articulated the extent of Republican disapproval of Cruz. Now we realize that it may be time to try and articulate Congress' new third party.

Conservative Party members in the 113th Congress

("Tea Party" seemed too obvious.)


The following members of the Senate joined Cruz in opposing an effort to advance the House government-funding resolution, as reported by the National Journal. We removed more moderate Republicans like Pennsylvania's Pat Toomey.

  • Ted Cruz, Texas, Minority Leader
  • Mike Lee, Utah, Minority Whip
  • Mike Crapo, Idaho
  • Mike Enzi, Wyoming
  • Chuck Grassley, Iowa
  • Dean Heller, Nevada
  • Jim Inhofe, Oklahoma
  • Jerry Moran, Kansas
  • Rand Paul, Kentucky
  • Jim Risch, Idaho
  • Marco Rubio, Florida
  • Pat Roberts, Kansas
  • Tim Scott, South Carolina
  • Jeff Sessions, Alabama
  • Richard Shelby, Alabama
  • David Vitter, Louisiana

House of Representatives

This is a combination of Lizza's "suicide caucus" members and some of those members who voted against electing John Boehner as Speaker in January.

  • Ted Cruz, Texas, Honorary Minority Leader
  • Louis Gohmert, Texas, Minority Whip
  • Justin Amash, Michigan
  • Michele Bachmann, Minnesota
  • Joe Barton, Texas
  • Paul Broun, Georgia
  • Jim Bridenstine, Oklahoma
  • Blake Farenthold, Texas
  • John Fleming, Louisiana
  • Trent Franks, Arizona
  • Phil Gingrey, Georgia
  • Paul Gosar, Arizona
  • Sam Graves, Missouri
  • Tim Huelskamp, Kansas
  • Bill Huizenga, Michigan
  • Walter Jones, North Carolina
  • Raul Labrador, Idaho
  • Doug LaMalfa, California
  • Tom Massie, Kentucky
  • Kenny Marchant, Texas
  • Tom McClintock, California
  • Mick Mulvaney, South Carolina
  • Randy Neugebauer, Texas
  • Steve Pearce, New Mexico
  • Ted Poe, Texas
  • Matt Salmon, Arizona
  • Steve Scalise, Louisiana
  • Steve Stockman, Texas
  • Ted Yoho, Florida

This exercise is only partly facetious and only partly predictive (clearly, some members of Congress vote more sporadically with their parties). But if you consider the above members as reliable votes against the House and Senate Republican leadership — as many of them have proven to be — it means that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has a solid caucus of about 30 members. Boehner's, meanwhile, drops from 233 to just over 200 — the number of members of the House who are Democrats.

Which demonstrates Boehner's problem. He has an until-now third party that he needs to bring along on votes in order to assure a majority. By consistently going sideways or advocating for more conservative measures, the Conservative Party members make Boehner's job harder. He's running a coalition government — one that now has a leader. Again, Costa:

Later Thursday, Cruz met again with House conservatives at a venue near the Capitol. According to one House member, the bicameral bloc talked deep into the night about the CR and how to pressure Boehner. At the top of the agenda: making a one-year delay of Obamacare a requirement for government funding, and to accept nothing less, should the defunding effort continue to unravel.

This ad hoc political group could be short-term. But the idea that there exists a block of hard-right Republicans willing to stand in the way of Republican objectives is long-standing, and Cruz has learned this week that his forays into independence will be rewarded.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.